A report issued by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR) has highlighted the abuse of such rights by the security agencies operated by the Palestinian Authority. At the time when Palestinians are living under the disastrous Israeli occupation, the report states, their basic rights are "undermined" by the "arbitrary actions" of the PA security services.
Noting that the PA administration is "corrupt", the AOHR claims that the current dire economic circumstances facing Palestinians, especially in the occupied West Bank, divert attention from the abuses of the Palestinian security agencies in collaboration with their Israeli counterparts.
The report covers the period January to July 2012 during which the AOHR monitored political detentions, summonses, torture, degrading treatment and employment dismissals affecting Palestinian men and women. The research was based on information derived from the victims who were detained, their families, eye-witnesses and some NGOs. It also relied on reports issued by the US Congress and documents issued by the European Union Police Mission which show the amount of financial aid provided to Palestinian Authority security agencies. A sample of 300 detainees was asked questions about their detention by the PA as well as by the Israelis; the impact of detention on their lives; and the impact on the Palestinian issue. In order to reveal the extent of the catastrophe, it was necessary to place research outcomes in the context of violations by Palestinian Authority security bodies over the past five years.
The data collected from June 2007 to the end of 2011 indicates that PA security forces detained 13,271 Palestinian citizens, 96 per cent of whom were subjected to various methods of torture resulting in the killing of six detainees and chronic illness in others. "Ninety-nine per cent of the detainees had experienced detention by the Israelis after which they were also detained by the PA on the same charges," the report states. "In the same period the Israeli army carried out detention campaigns and raids resulting in thousands of Palestinians being detained; 9,765 according to official statistics, most of whom had also been detained by the PA in the past." They were generally charged based on confessions extracted under torture by PA security officers, it is alleged.
Since the beginning of 2011 the PA is supposed to have eased political detentions and ended systematic torture, but the AOHR claims that the data collected in 2012 suggests that that has not been the case. "A campaign of summons and detentions has taken place, with most of the detainees having already been detained by PA and Israeli security agencies for prolonged periods."
Between January and July 2012, PA security agencies detained 572 citizens and summonsed 770 more, among them women and old people, who were often forced to wait from early morning to the evening before being "interviewed". Some were "summonsed" daily for weeks on end, while others were kept under virtual house arrest. The period also witnessed raids against universities, hospitals and houses in order to arrest people wanted for protesting against the Israeli occupation. "The PA officers confiscated equipment and personal cash, which often went missing after the searches," claims the AOHR.
The exact number of detainees in PA prisons is unknown; it fluctuates between 40 and 85. The various PA security agencies have about 43 centres at their disposal, ranging from the Central Prison to detention stations.
Security tactics include the dismissal of employees from their jobs as a form of harassment. "At least 73 people were made unemployed in the period under review," says the report, "and it is estimated that around 3,200 have faced the same injustice since 2005." Harassment also includes students with "security records" being unable to find employment, acquire a driving licence or open a business, it is alleged.
The AOHR notes that the PA's security activities are routinely carried out following full coordination with the Israeli occupation authorities. In the same period, the Israelis detained about 1,300 Palestinians, 30 per cent of them children. Jerusalem and Hebron saw the most detention operations, with 550 citizens detained in Hebron and 80 children in Jerusalem. "It's worth noting that detentions and summonses executed by the PA security agencies surpassed those of the Israelis."
Despite the "grave human rights violations by the PA security agencies", they continue to be supported by the US and EU. "According to the documents which were obtained, the US has provided generous assistance estimated at $658.4 million since 2007," claims the AOHR. "For the coming financial year of 2013, the Obama administration has demanded an additional $70 million." The US also undertook to train 6,000 personnel. "Thus far, eight battalions have been trained, each one consisting of 500 officers." As for the EU, the AOHR records that it has allocated through the European Union Police Mission an estimated $9 million for training the PA police and development of the criminal justice department. Around 7,500 police officers have already been trained.
The human rights group expresses its astonishment that the PA should, in the shadow of the Arab Spring, "cultivate its own system of impunity, in total defiance of its people's demands for freedom and dignity". The PA, continues the AOHR, seems to be oblivious of the factors which led to the downfall of the tyrannical regimes across the region. "There is absolutely no justification for its acceptance of becoming a sub-contracted security tool of the Israeli occupation, crushing at every opportunity the legitimate aspirations of their people for freedom and self-determination."
Indeed, the AOHR goes further, alleging that the PA's human rights violations against the Palestinian people have amplified their suffering under the Israelis and "undermined" their national struggle for self-determination. "It is clearly obvious that the PA hasn't learnt from its experiences with the Israelis or from the uprisings in the Arab lands," it states. "On the contrary, it remains firmly committed to its campaign of detention and destroying national solidarity while serving foreign agendas which strike the Palestinian national freedom project at its core."
As the Palestinian Authority now has observer status in the UN, the AOHR points out, it is necessary for its leaders to be obligated by the international laws and conventions which protect human rights in the times of war and peace. "The state which emerges from under the occupation must be built on the rights of Palestinians to life and freedom."
In conclusion, the AOHR insists that after the latest Israeli offensive against the Gaza strip, all forms of security cooperation between the PA and the Israelis have to be stopped. The organisation pins the responsibility for these "human rights violations" on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and calls on the Secretary Generals of the UN, Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to put pressure on Abbas to stop all political detentions which, it is claimed, "damage the rights of all Palestinians".